If you're not interested in my opinions, just read the article exonerating Talbert et.
al. and all their shenanigans at http://umns.umc.org/00/aug/389.htm
For sake of argument, let's say that I'm a church-goer of lukewarm faith. Suppose I'm
motivated to learn just what the UMC stands for. I visit a church and talk to the pastor,
and say that I really want to know the details of the UMC. Seeing that I'm serious, the
pastor loans a copy of the latest Book of Discipline to me for my study. So, I read the
Book of Discipline cover to cover, and then I decide to surf the Web and see what other
UMC information I can find to learn some current events. I then read all kinds of
articles, including the above linked article, as well as the following:
PASTOR: Hello Mike, how've you been?
MIKE: Well, I've read the entire
Book of Discipline and I was impressed with the thoroughness of the document, but
when I read so many current events on the Internet, it confused me.
PASTOR: How's that?
MIKE: From the Book of
Discipline, I see that you, as a UMC pastor, have many rules bounding you, and I also
know just what you believe about Christianity.
PASTOR: What makes you think that you know what I believe about Christianity
when we haven't had a single discussion about beliefs?
MIKE: Well, the Book of
Discipline includes all kinds of statements of faith and it lists all of the
oath-type statements that you must make in order to be ordained. So, I know that you hold
true to all of these things in the Book of Discipline, right?
PASTOR: Well now, just because it says all those things in the Book of
Discipline doesn't mean that every single pastor believes them all. Let me assure you
that I think I pretty much agree with all the Book of Discipline, but we
shouldn't pass judgment on other pastors and their belief systems.
MIKE: But didn't you and all
pastors have to make these statements and professions of faith and stuff like that?
PASTOR: Sure we all did that, all right. But, it's assumed by most of the UMC
leaders that some pastors just say those things and don't believe them. You know, it's a
new pastor's right to disagree with the Book of Discipline; after all, it's an
old book, and it tends to be sort of rigid, and you need to understand that the UMC is
growing to be more and more about pluralism, diversity, tolerance, and like that.
MIKE: So you're saying that the
UMC leaders, bishops and the like, I guess, assume that when pastors are ordained that
some (or all?) of the pastors-to-be are just lying when they make the professions and
PASTOR: Now, don't use that word "lying!" No it's sort of like just
holding to an opinion that differs from the statement that is coming out of your mouth.
You know, this is America where everyone has the right to her/his own opinion.
MIKE: It looks to me like this
"opinion" thing is fairly widespread in the UMC leadership. That bishop in
Sacramento was accused of lying, but his superior ruled that he was only stating an
opinion. Say, I wonder, was the guy who said the bishop wasn't lying just giving an
opinion, or was he stating a fact, or something?
PASTOR: We pastors don't comment much on such subjects.
MIKE: Well that really
disappoints me because I wondered if you could explain to me this Sacramento 68 thing. I
read that these scores of pastors jointly performed a same-sex union, and yet the Book of
Discipline says that pastors can't do that. Did I read the Book of Discipline
PASTOR: Sure you did.
MIKE: According to the reports,
these pastors made a public spectacle of themselves and paraded around the fact that they
disobeyed their vows and stuff. Then some committee looked at the facts and said that
there was no evidence of the pastors disobeying. I don't get that.
PASTOR: Well, you see, the pastors were demonstrating that they disagree with
the Book of Discipline and they think it should be changed, but that can only
happen via a General Conference. So, they are making a stand for their opinion.
MIKE: OK, I see the disobeying
in order to stand for their opinion, but doesn't that mean that they must accept the
consequences of their stand? After all, I thought the whole Christian thing was about
persecution, and standing up for what you believe in and then accepting your fate with
respect to what the earthly forces will do to you.
PASTOR: What would you expect to happen?
MIKE: Well, that Creech fellow
was tossed out on his backside for doing the same thing, wasn't he?
PASTOR: Sure he was, but he did it all by himself, and in a Conference whose
opinions are held a little closer to what the Book of Discipline says. The
difference is that in California there were scores of pastors who disobeyed and it was
understood before they ever did it that the bishop and just about all the leaders in
California would support the disobedience, and make sure that none of the pastors would
have to suffer anything for their actions, like losing good appointments, or losing
pensions, and good stuff like that which pastors get if they stay in the UMC long enough,
and do what the bishop tells them to do; you know--you have to "play the game" a
MIKE: OK, I think I'm
understanding now; don't forget that I used to work for a large corporation, and after so
many decades, I learned to work that system, just like you pastors are learning to work
the UMC system. Yea, I've seen those corporate policy books: rules, rules, rules--who
needs 'em! I moved throughout the corporation, and I can relate to the UMC structure: The
head guy at this factory defines the rules that he will follow, and then he makes clear
what rules everyone else is to follow; then you go to the next factory, and the head guy
there has totally different rules, and yet the corporate office says the rules are the
same for everybody, but of course, they aren't. Also, I've seen where the boss plays
favorites among the department heads; it all depends on who agrees with the boss, and who
will kiss his backside, you know, it's like what happened to all those pastors in
California who got on the wrong side of the bishop and ended up being booted or left on
their own before the guillotine fell on them.
PASTOR: Now what a minute, you can't draw a comparison to your secular
corporation and the UMC!
MIKE: Well sure I can. Look,
it's right here in the news. You've got 60+ pastors who perform a same-sex union to
demonstrate their opinion in defiance with the Book of Discipline, and they're
let off the hook and given a pat on the back for doing what the bishop wants 'em to do,
right? Now compare that to a handful (or so) of pastors who, along with the full backing
of their congregations, declare that they won't give money to the bishop as a means to
demonstrate their opinion in defiance with the Book of Discipline, but this group
gets castigated by the bishop and his department heads--er, I mean DS's. Ya see, it's just
like the corporation--do what the boss says and you get promoted, go against the boss, and
your rear end is grass--know what I mean? Forget that corporate rule book stuff, you just
need to find out what the boss wants to hear, and then you can get ahead.
PASTOR: I really don't like how you draw those analogies.
MIKE: Well, you know, it's just
like this bishop who throws out the pastors who don't like his program. I figured that
this bishop gets to treat people as unjustly as he wants to, because he's like the plant
manager of the factory that's making the biggest profit, so the corporate heads let him
run things as he sees fit, since his bottom line is looking good. And that's where I
haven't figured out the UMC system yet. You see, this California bishop has a conference
that is shrinking in membership, attendance, and even money, yet the UMC big wigs let this
bishop continue to do things his way, which would appear to be producing red ink on the
bottom line. What's the deal?
PASTOR: You see, that's where you're wrong. The UMC is a Christian Church and we
don't measure success by numbers and money.
MIKE: Now Pastor, where'd you
get that idea? In reading the UMC literature, practically everything the UMC does is
measured against head counts and money. I agree that a church shouldn't function like a
corporation, but you sure couldn't tell it by looking at the UMC.
PASTOR: Well with all the research you've done on the UMC, I can bet that you're
ready to join that new members class next week, right?
MIKE: Oh no, Pastor! This UMC is
not for me. You see, I hated that corporate job, and the last thing I want to do is join
another corporation. No, you see, I'm looking for a Christian church. You see, besides
reading all this UMC stuff, I've also read the Bible. Even though I went to church all my
childhood, I never really understood the meaning of Christianity until I read the Bible
cover to cover in my adulthood; and I've been in a Bible study with other Christians, and
I'm beginning to see some of the meat of what it means to be a Christian, and I can see
from the current events that the UMC is not behaving like a Christian organization.
PASTOR: Well, I'm disappointed that you won't consider joining our church, but
the important thing is that you join a church where you can grow as a Christian.
MIKE: That's just how I feel
also. See ya Pastor, and if you ever get fed up with the UMC like I did with that
corporation, give me a call and we can cry together about the big pensions we threw down
the drain in favor of following our convictions. But hey, you know, money isn't
everything, and as I'm reading in the Bible, I'm beginning to think that it's the LEAST
PASTOR: Hey, thanks for the encouragement!